Time spent with Julia Bendis brings to mind a certain Broadway tune. She's Russian. She's Jewish. And she's a matchmaker.
She says she comes by matchmaking naturally. Her mom and her grandmother used to dabble in it in Latvia, from which her family emigrated when Bendis was 13. Bendis began setting up people as a hobby in high school.
At 36, she's happily married and raising two boys, 13 and 8, in Rancho Santa Margarita – the result of some indirect matchmaking by her mom and grandmother. More on that later.
She started Match by Julia about four years ago, working with a small number of clients at any one time so she can give that personal touch. She has a website, matchbyjulia.com, but it's mainly for people to learn about her service and make initial contact. Otherwise, she works with them one-on-one, in person.
"I don't know if it got passed down to me, but I've always known who'd make a great couple," she says. "It's just something that, it's in me. People ask, 'How do you know?' I just know."
By now, you're humming that song in your head, right? She tells us more about it.
Think of the old-fashioned kind of matchmaking from "Fiddler on the Roof," and that's Julia's grandmother. Her mom, a microbiologist, was less so but always on the lookout.
It was kind of like a Russian thing, when there were grandmothers thinking, "So-and-so needs to get married. She needs to be set up. She's going to be old at 25."
I watched my grandmother do it. She didn't do it officially. It was just one of those things that grandmothers in Russia did, especially Jewish grandmothers. They would always try to set people up that were young or that they thought were getting old: 'Oh, I know a grandson,' or 'I know so-and-so, my friend so-and-so.' Or 'the woman who lives down the street, she's got a son.'
The wheels would spin from there. She knew people. If she didn't, she would meet people. She would walk down the street and meet people, here, there. Even without any English here, she would somehow meet people and she would interact with them with her hands, half English, half Russian, half who knows what.
Of course, Grandma would try to set up Julia. One time in particular led to a comical outcome.
She said there was this gentleman who came around this building where she lived with a lot of older people in Irvine. And he donated a lot of his time to help the war veterans and older people, especially Russian people. He was Russian. She kept talking about him – he's a sweet guy, a nice guy, you've got to meet him. He's cute. He's young.
So he ended up calling me one day and he said, "You know, your last name sounds really familiar. I went to school back in Latvia with a guy named Vladimir Beynart." Which is my maiden name.
I said. "That's my dad." He said, "It is? Well, he was a couple of years older than me but I knew of him. He was a pretty well-known engineer back in the day." And I said, "Oh, my gosh! How old are you?" "Forty-five. How old are you?" "Twenty." I said I gotta go. Click.
I said, "Grandma, he's 45 years old! I almost went out on a date with him."
"Oh, he is? He looks young." It was stuff like this constantly.
But her grandmother – and her mom – had a hand in Julia meeting her husband, Scott, who at the time did award-winning special effects in the film and TV industry.
Back in the day, in our Jewish community center in Costa Mesa, before the Internet, they had a book for guys and a book for girls. And you literally would go in and you'd open the book and flip through the pages looking at their pictures and profile.
So they put my glamour shots – pictures I had at 18, which I don't look like that every day – they put those pictures in and I didn't even know what they wrote up on the profile. I ended up going back and fixing it and changing it. They just said try it. So one day I thought, all right, I have nothing to lose.
I went there with a girlfriend and we were looking through the pages of boys, and there were a lot of older men with kids. And then I saw my husband's picture in there. In the picture he was holding an Emmy or an Oscar. I thought, ooh, I gotta know the story behind that.
What you did was you filled out a little paper saying, "I request your phone number, I think we should talk." Well, the same day that I did that for him, he did that for me. We both requested each other's phone numbers.
He said a lot of the people in that book were older and they had kids. And I thought the same thing on the men's side – they were all older and I had nothing in common with them.
They married about a year after exchanging numbers, much to her mom and grandmother's delight.
We were one of their success stories.
A good matchmaker – like the people they set up – must be open-minded and patient.
You get different types of people, different personalities, difficult, easygoing. And some people just require more attention. You have to be able to explain the same thing over and over to people. You have to be able to ... not change their personality, not change them, but change their view of how they're going about putting their best foot forward.
It's almost like you have to do therapy with people. This is what I do a lot, coaching people into how not to talk about your ex, how not to talk about your ailments, how not to talk about your cats – just to put your best self out there.
Her clients fill out a form with more than 50 questions on it that she studies before meeting with them.
We sit down together and I go over the questionnaire and I ask questions. Why did you put this down? What happened with your past relationship? What are you looking for? What's your background? We talk about everything.
After that initial meeting and I get all my questions out of the way and they get all their questions out of the way, and I learn about them and what they're looking for, I go back and I look through my database of people I already have and see if there's anyone there that might be a match. If not, then I go and I meet people.
You can ask my husband, I walk up to people on the street and ask if they're single. He finally told me, "You can't open with that, babe. You can't just go up to someone and say, 'Hi, are you single?' You need to say, 'Hi, I'm Julia and I'm a matchmaker. Are you single?'"
She has worked with a few hundred people so far. All ages seek her out.
It could be people in their 20s that have just never enjoyed the party scene, never enjoyed the bar scene. They know what they want. They have a great job. They have a good career. They just want to share their life with someone.
Or it could be an 80-plus senior citizen who lost his wife or lost her husband. They're lonely. They may never want to get married again, but they would like to have someone to go to movies with or to go to dinner with.
I don't turn anyone away unless they're rude, which I've only done twice now.
Her clients include more senior citizens lately.
They're on the go and they want someone to just be in their life. They may not want someone to settle down and get married again. They're obviously not having kids. They just want a partner to share however many years they still have left.
A lot of them don't want to do the online dating. A lot of them have tried and it's been a terrible experience for them. They just want to meet someone in person. They're very leery of online dating. They're afraid that they will get conned into something or they'll meet someone who is not who they say they are.
Sometimes she has to dissuade older men who ask for women of "childbearing age," the words they use to mean someone under 45.
When you're 60-something years old, I'm not going to give you a 40-year-old. Sometimes it works. But I mean, unless you're Hugh Hefner, it's unrealistic.
Once a matchmaker, always a matchmaker – her mom still gives an assist here and there.
It's funny because once in a while she'll call me and say, "Oh, I have a girl at work. She's single. Do you have anyone?" Or I'll call her and say, "Hey, do you have any single men right now?" She'll say, "Oh, let me think about it." And then she gets to work.
It's like a family thing. We all get so passionate about it. Obviously it's very discreet. But, yeah, it's definitely in our blood.
Click here to read how Julia brought one couple together.
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